It’s easy to get overwhelmed right now.
It seems everywhere you turn it’s fires, floods or your friends and family in crisis.
But there’s a way to override overwhelm, be of service, and live in peace.
Keep turning in the direction of beauty.
Because no matter what else is going on, beauty’s right there. She sits on the shoulder of death, she flows in the tears of heartache, and she dances in the chaos of destruction.
Now it may seem irresponsible and even heartless to turn towards beauty when there’s so much suffering going on, but here’s why I recommend you try it.
With news and social media, we have more information about tragedies all around the world as they happen. We can be up close witnesses to earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and angry white supremacists, even if it’s all happening thousands of miles away. We see it on the news and our friends post it online where we can watch it again and again.
And while a friend of mine said, “Now is a time we have to be vigilant”, we’re at risk of becoming hyper-vigilant; fueled by anxiety we watch for potential threat everywhere, increasing our stress levels in a vicious cycle.
Though technology has evolved rapidly, our biology has not.
When you watch a disaster on a screen your nervous system responds as if it’s real. It prepares to fight or flee for your survival while you sit unmoving, glued to the image. That can leave you traumatized. A study shows that people who had repeated media exposure to the Boston Marathon Bombing showed higher levels of acute stress than those who were actually present at the bombing.
By staying informed and vigilant are you helping, or are you doing more harm? You’ll know by the way you feel. Letting yourself go down the rabbit-hole of exposure can put you in survival mode and you may not even know it. It can lead to anxiety, depression, problems sleeping, digestive issues and a host of problems that can make it hard for you to be part of the solution.
So what are you going to do?
Turn yourself in the direction of beauty.
- Look at things that make you feel good. Whether it’s your kids, some flowers or a work of art. There is still beauty around you.
- Laugh. Get with friends to laugh, play games, tell jokes, make music together. Sh*t’s still funny, even now.
- Shut off technology. Give your nervous system long breaks without any electronic input. When I recommend social media breaks to my clients 100% of them feel more creative, optimistic and better about themselves when they do. I know I do too.
- Let yourself feel. Weep, mourn, feel your fear. It’s not a time to override what is real. Let the feelings move through you so you don’t get stuck.
- Move your body. A great way to shake the images and thoughts from your mind is to shake your body. Dance. Walk. Run. Jump on a trampoline. It doesn’t matter what. Just move!
- Give where you can. Whether it’s donating to a cause, volunteering your time, calling a friend who needs cheering up or saying a prayer, give and you’ll feel less helpless.
- Be silent. There is so much energy coming at you all the time, and an endless list of things to do. Take a few minutes every day to be silent and listen to yourself. Rumi said, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” There is such loving wisdom inside you. It will guide you in exactly the right thing to do if you will listen. Sometimes withdrawing from the world is the most powerful way to be engaged.
- Rest. Get more sleep. Take naps. Give yourself a break from pushing too hard. Times of great stress require great recovery. If you’re feeling stressed by it all, rest more. Ideally after you’ve moved your body 🙂
Some would call the way I live “sticking my head in the sand” because I can’t feel good when I expose myself to too much of what’s going on. I don’t watch really violent or scary movies. I haven’t watched the news in over a decade and I don’t log much time on social media, but what I need to know still reaches me.
I’ve been able to give to organizations helping victims of floods and fires, without watching any footage. I check on friends in area of danger, without monitoring the threat. This Sunday I’ll show my support at the local Racial Justice meeting that’s being disrupted by White Supremacists, because a neighbour told me people were needed.
The above are just 8 ways to turn towards beauty. These simple practices can calm your nervous system, strengthen your capacity to handle stress, and make you better able to help when needed. If they work for a weakling like me, imagine what they might do for you.
How do you turn towards beauty, even at a time like this? I’d love your ideas in the comments below.
Tweet these ideas and help others override overwhelm.